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The Prophet of Mercy & Forgiveness

With daily ‘breaking news’ headlines about political upheavals around the world now being the norm, and the dynamics of power play between global leaders remaining a hot topic of discussion, there is a lot of buzz nowadays about what qualities and traits actually make a good leader.

Is a good leader the one who is elected by the majority of his people? Is he compassionate towards minorities, and defends their rights? Does a good leader encourage empowerment of the weak, and gives a voice to the oppressed? Is he the one who executes swift justice against hardline criminals? Does he respect women? And does a truly good leader fear and obey God, in his personal as well as his communal life?

Dwelling in a politically turbulent world that pines and prays for global peace, history has been witness to the fact that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the only leader in history, who ticked all the right boxes. He was merciful and kind, but also fair and just when the situation necessitated it.

Prophet Muhammad never had any enemies in his life until he received the first revelation of Quran, and started to preach Islam to others. This propagation of monotheism began to create covert enemies and antagonists for him, as his influence and following grew. However, the Prophet’s strategy in dealing with those who wanted to see him dead and gone involved retaliating with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness, as we shall see below.

Poisoned by a Jewess

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Once, a woman sent the Prophet some meat as a gift that she had deliberately laced with poison, so that he would die. The Prophet called the woman back and asked her about her deed:

Anas reported that a Jewess came to Allah’s Messenger with poisoned mutton and he took of that what had been brought to him. (When the effect of this poison were felt by him) he called for her and asked her about that, whereupon she said:

I had determined to kill you’. Thereupon he said:

‘Allah will never give you the power to do it.’

He (the narrator) said that they (the companion’s of the Prophet) said:

‘Should we not kill her?’ Thereupon he said:


He (Anas) said: ‘I felt (the affects of this poison) on the uvula of Allah’s Messenger’.” (Sahih Muslim)

As is obvious from the above hadith, the woman openly admitted her vile assassination attempt on him. His own companions readily offered to immediately execute Divine justice upon her in compensation for the crime. Yet, the Prophet let her live.

This is indeed indicative of the Prophet’s immense power to forgive others for any attacks on his personal self. The effects of poison were still evident on the insides of his mouth, yet he let the woman who had tried to murder him, live!

What about us? Do we forgive attacks on our selves that are much less evil in nature? We all should try to emulate the Prophet’s example and be more big-hearted and forgiving.

Bewitched by a Jew

At another time, witchcraft was deliberately done on Prophet Muhammad, by a man from a Jewish tribe. As a result of this spiritual attack on him, he began to imagine that he had done things that he had actually not done. Once he realized that something was wrong, he called out to Allah for help.

A hadith in Sahih Al Bukhari describes the incident in detail. After the Prophet asked Allah for help, two angels were sent to him from Allah, who told him who had done the magic on him, with what, and how to undo the effects. The Prophet had the well filled up with earth, in which the object with which the witchcraft was done on him, was finally found.

But what did the Prophet do in retaliation for the crime itself? Nothing. Even though he knew who was responsible for inflicting the harm he had suffered, he chose not to take any action against the Jewish man. And this is the reason he gave for not taking any revenge:

As for me, Allah has healed me and cured me and I was afraid that (by showing that to the people) I would spread evil among them.” (Sahih Al Bukhari)

He did not want the masses to find out that magic could be done like this to inflict harm on others. Perhaps, then, more evil people would try to do the same.

That is why, thanking Allah for being cured, he let the incident go and prevented the knowledge of evil from spreading. Not an easy thing to do!

Attacked by 80 Men After Peace Treaty

After the peace treaty at Al-Hudaibiyah was drawn up between the Prophet and the people of Makkah, it resulted in a ceasefire and prevalence of peace. Then an incident occurred in which some Makkans tried to kill the Prophet and his companions:

It has been narrated on the authority of Anas bin Malik that eighty persons from the inhabitants of Mecca swooped down upon the Messenger of Allah from the mountain of Tan’im. They were armed and wanted to attack the Prophet and his companions unawares. He (the Holy Prophet) captured them but spared their lives. So, Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, revealed the verses: {It is He Who restrained your hands from them and their hands from you in the valley of Mecca after He had given you a victory over them} (48:24).” (Sahih Muslim)

Despite the fact that these 80 men had violated the treaty, and were overpowered and taken prisoner by the Prophet’s companions, and were at his mercy, he let them go. Allah revealed a verse of the Qur’an in chapter 48, titled “Al-Fath”, corroborating this action.

Once again, we should ask ourselves: if we had the authority and power to do as we wished with a gang who had tried to kill us, would we forgive them and let them go?

His Advice Regarding Treatment of Slaves

Perhaps the most compassionate stance of the Prophet becomes evident in the way he treated the weakest and most economically powerless segment of society during his era: slaves. Slaves had much fewer rights and freedoms than free people.

He exhorted nothing but kind treatment of these people who were bought, sold, and owned like property by their wealthy owners during his lifetime:

“….They (your slaves) are your brothers. Allah has put them in your care, so feed them with what you eat, clothe them with what you wear, and do not burden them beyond their capacities. But if you burden them (with an unbearable burden), then help them (by sharing their extra burden).” (Sahih Muslim)

May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad.